New Delhi– The paper presented by India at the World Trade Organization for a proposed Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) Agreement is a welcome initiative that has been well received by many member countries, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said here on Thursday.

“India’s paper on a Trade Facilitation in Services Agreement is a positive move… a very welcome initiative that has been well received, in general, by members,” Azevedo said at an event here organised by industry chamber CII.

“Members, however, are awaiting clarifications…it is still a conceptual paper,” he said.

Roberto Azevedo (Photo: Wikipedia)

Noting that services have become a key part of economies around the world, Azevedo said that India’s paper on a TFS accord contained a number of ideas like facilitating the cross-border movement of people, information flows and of health services.

“Services make up 36 per cent of Indian exports, which makes it the fifth largest services exporter globally,” he said.

The TFS Agreement aims to ease norms including those relating to movement of foreign professionals across borders for short-term work.

Among the objectives of the proposed accord is to ensure portability of social security contributions, and that fees or charges for immigration or visas are reasonable, transparent and non-restrictive in nature.

It also aims to pave the way for a single window mechanism for foreign investment approvals.

The World Trade Organization chief, who is on a two-day official visit here from Wednesday, said he would be discussing TFS issues with Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Azevedo also referred to the very uncertain period for global trade, especially in the context of recent global developments including America’s shift towards on protectionism and Britain’s vote to exit (Brexit) from the EU.

“This has been a very uncertain period for the global economy with trade growth for 2016 to be around 1.7 per cent, the slowest pace of trade growth since the financial crisis (2008-09). The outlook for the trade and the global flows has weakened significantly and has not returned to the pre-crisis level,” he said.

“In such a fragile scenario, we hear more and more talks on inward moving policies. We must emphasise that turning into protectionism will not solve the problem of slow growth.”

“There is a false notion that trade disrupts the local markets and leads to unemployment. The impact of the new technology and innovation is more significant for that matter. Studies show 8 out of 10 jobs are lost owing to that reason and not faulty trade policies”, he added.

In his address, Additional Secretary of Department of Commerce Anup Wadhawan said the proposal is also about making market access effective and commercially meaningful and not about new or greater market access. (IANS)

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